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Attachment to Church Congregation: Contributions to Well-Being Over and Above Social Support.

Over the last three decades, research has established a strong link between attachment and well-being as well as social support and well-being. Past research found that attachment to church congregation predicted well-being over and above that predicted by attachment to God. However, it is unknown if attachment to church congregation predicts well-being over and above that predicted by social support. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine if attachment to church congregation could explain a portion of the variance in negative affect, positive affect, satisfaction with life, and daily spiritual experiences, beyond that explained by religious social support and perceived social support. The data from 201 participants indicated that religious social support, perceived social support, and attachment to church congregation each predicted different aspects of well-being. Only negative affect was predicted by attachment to church congregation beyond that predicted by social support. More research is needed to better understand the relationship between attachment to church congregation, social support, and well-being.

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Over the last several decades, research in the fields of attachment and social support has proliferated. In recent years, research has established a strong link between attachment and well-being (e.g., Mikulincer & Shaver, 2013; Feeney & Collins, 2015). In addition, numerous studies have been conducted examining attachment relationships and social support (e.g., Collins & Feeney, 2000, 2004) as well as social support and well-being (e.g., Krause, 2004). However, research on attachment processes, social support, and well-being within faith-based communities is not as thoroughly investigated. Research by Freeze and DiTommaso (2015) examined attachment to God and attachment to church congregation as predictors of daily spiritual experiences and well-being and found that attachment to church congregation uniquely predicted well-being beyond that predicted by attachment to God. Still, as they note, it is unknown if attachment to church congregation is different from social support. Thus, the purpose of the current research was to investigate whether attachment to church congregation predicted well-being above and beyond that predicted by measures of social support. This construct has the potential to provide important information about the cognitive, affective, and behavioral functioning of individual church-goers as it pertains to their relationship with others in their church community.

Attachment Theory

Attachment theory was first conceptualized by Bowlby (1958) as he sought to explain the nature of the relationship between a caregiver and a child. Bowlby (1969, 1973) suggested that early experiences between the child and caregiver form internal working models (i.e., mental representations) of the self in relationship to others and that the child carries these internal working models (IWMs) into future relationships. Further, over the last thirty years, attachment theory has been extended to adult relationships (e.g., Hazan & Shaver, 1987). Research by Brennan, Clark and Shaver (1998) found that adult attachment could be measured on two dimensions: anxiety and avoidance. Lower levels of both anxiety and avoidance reflected a more secure attachment where the self was viewed as worthy of love and the other as trustworthy and available. An individual with higher levels of avoidant and lower levels of anxious attachment may view themselves positively but others negatively and may avoid disappointment in relationships by avoiding intimacy with others. An individual with higher levels of avoidance and higher levels of anxious dimensions view both themselves and others negatively. They expect and fear rejection, thus also avoiding intimacy with others. An individual with higher levels of the anxious dimension but lower levels of the avoidant dimension have a positive view of others but negative view of self and are prone to constantly seeking reassurance when in intimate relationships.

Research has indicated that the two-dimension model of attachment and IWMs can be applied to the relationship between a person of Christian faith and their God (Beck & McDonald, 2004). Attachment to God has been shown to predict both religious behaviors and well-being (e.g., Freeze & DiTommaso, 2014; Rowatt & Kirkpatrick, 2002). However, some would suggest that the examination of attachment relationships for those of Christian faith is incomplete (Freeze & DiTommaso, 2014). Indeed, the attachment relationship between the divine and the worshipper represents only one dimension, sometimes called the vertical dimension (Rader, 1970), in the life of a person of religious faith. Examination of the horizontal dimension (Rader, 1970), or the attachment relationship between a worshipper and the rest of the congregation, is lacking. One exception is the work by Freeze and DiTommaso (2015).

Attachment to church congregation. Freeze and DiTommaso (2015), partially basing their research on work by Smith, Murphy, and Coats (1999), conceptualized relationships within congregations as an attachment process. Smith et al. (1999) examined participant's attachment relationship to groups (e.g., sorority, fraternity) and found that, like other attachment relationships, attachment to group could be measured along the two dimensions of avoidance and anxiety. Freeze and DiTommaso (2015) conducted two studies investigating the utility of attachment to church congregation as a predictor of well-being beyond that which is predicted by attachment to God. In the first study they used the adult attachment survey, worded for attachment to church congregation, to predict daily spiritual experiences, emotional well-being, self-acceptance, and life satisfaction. They found that the ability to depend on church congregation uniquely predicted both daily spiritual experiences and emotional well-being. In the second study, secure attachment to church congregation was operationalized as lower levels of both avoidant and anxious attachment. Thus, the attachment to group scale was worded for attachment to church congregation and used to determine if attachment to church congregation uniquely predicted satisfaction with life, positive affect, and negative affect. Higher levels of anxious attachment to church congregation predicted negative affect beyond that predicted by attachment to God. While these studies indicated support for attachment to church congregation as a unique construct, they did not take into consideration the possibility that attachment to church congregation may simply be capturing social support.

Social Support

Interest in social support and its relationship to health and well-being increased in the 1970's and 80's (House, Landis, & Umberson, 1988). Cobb (1976) defined social support as " ... information leading the subject to believe that he is cared for and loved, esteemed, and a member of a network of mutual obligations" (p. 300). He categorized the belief that one is loved and cared for as emotional support. This was distinct from esteem support, which Cobb categorized as the belief that one is esteemed. While House and Kahn (1985) noted emotional support as one aspect of social support, they further delineated social support to include instrumental and informational support. Emotional support is provided when a trusted person expresses empathie concern and caring, while instrumental support is tangible (e.g., financial support, house-cleaning, meals), and informational support is provided when advice and guidance is offered (Cohen, 2004). Though many studies of social support have been conducted on those experiencing trauma or other stressful events, the buffering effects of social support have also been studied in the context of daily stress (e.g., DeLongis, Folkman, & Lazarus, 1988) and in the context of religious settings (i.e., whether or not one receives support from members of their church congregation, Krause, 1999). Further, the literature examining social support and well-being is not solely predicated on receiving it, but also whether one seeks it (e.g., Fisher, Goff, Nadler, & Chinsky, 1988), whether one provides it (e.g., Liang, Krause, & Bennett, 2001), and whether one perceives it (e.g., Yilmaz Ozpolat, Ayaz, Konag, & Ozkan, 2014). Clearly, there are many ways to operationalize social support. For the purposes of this study, however, only perceived social support and church-based religious support were examined.

Church-based support. Church-based religious support can be defined as the social support received from one's congregation (Krause, 1999). For example, Krause, Ellison and Wulff (1998) found that emotional support from fellow church members had a beneficial effect on positive affect but no relationship to negative affect. Though this study focused only on church-based support, Krause (2006) noted that support provided by members of one's church congregation may provide something unique. In this study, Krause examined the stress-buffering effects of church-based support and secular support. He found that church-based support buffered the impact of financial strain on health but secular support did not. This study was conducted on those in late-life, and it is not known if this would generalize to other age groups. Several other studies have examined church-based social support (e.g., Robins & Fiske, 2009; Krause, 2011; Bauer, 2013) and found similar results.

It is unclear why church-based social support and not secular-based social support would have stress-buffering effects. McClure (2013) noted that social support provided by church members occurred due to the relationships within the congregation and suggested that people were more likely to provide support when they were embedded in the church community. Further, research by Krause (2011) noted that individuals who received social support were more likely to have emotionally close informal relationships with other church members. Thus, it may be that relationships where social support is given and received are more readily available in church congregations. If so, what role might attachment to church congregation play?

Attachment and Social Support

It is important to distinguish between social support and attachment to congregation because, theoretically, though they are different they are also similar. In their paper on social support and close relationships, Feeney and Collins (2015) note that social support functions as a part of attachment theory. Normatively, they are a part of the behavioral component of attachment. In terms of safe haven, in times of distress, social support helps to buffer the negative impact of negative life events. In terms of secure base, social support helps by providing a base from which one feels secure enough to explore. These authors also note that individual differences in attachment insecurity have been associated with both social-support seeking behaviors and perceptions of social support received. Theoretically, based on the work of Collins and Feeney (2000; Feeney & Collins, 2015), a church member with higher levels of secure attachment to their fellow congregants may be comfortable both seeking support when needed and receiving support that is offered. They would also be more inclined to offer support to others, thereby increasing the chance of reciprocation. A church member with higher levels of avoidant attachment to their fellow congregants may be unlikely to ask for support, be uncomfortable receiving support and be less inclined to offer support to others, thereby decreasing chances of reciprocation. A church member with higher levels of anxious attachment to their fellow congregants is likely to be preoccupied with these relationships. Therefore, they may continually seek support from others, show signs of anger when it is perceived that support is not forthcoming, and be jealous when viewing other people receiving support. In sum, the behaviors of church-goers with higher levels of anxious and/or avoidant attachment to their fellow congregants may result in lower overall social support received and, at the very least, perceived.

Empirically, some research on social support and attachment styles has been conducted, albeit not within a church context. Collins and Feeney (2000) followed an attachment theory framework to investigate how individual differences in attachment style influenced support-seeking and caregiving in romantic adult relationships, and found a strong, positive correlation between support-seeking behaviour and the quality of caregiving provided by the caregiver. Taken together, the results of the study indicated that both partners' attachment style played a role in influencing the behaviour of the support seeker, and participants who were part of higher functioning relationships perceived the caregiver/support-seeker interactions as more supportive and caring. More recently, Green, Furrer, and McAllister (2011) conducted longitudinal research with Early Head Start mothers and defined attachment styles and social support as different constructs, though they suggested that the constructs influenced each other. They suggested that attachment styles influence how people interact with and perceive their social support networks.

In sum, although researchers have examined attachment to church congregation (Freeze Sc DiTommaso, 2015) and church-based social support (Krause, 2006), they have not empirically examined the two constructs together. Moreover, researchers have not attempted to determine if attachment to church congregation provides a unique contribution, beyond that provided by social support, to other constructs like well-being. Understanding their unique contribution may provide important information to pastors and others who seek to provide support to and improve the well-being of their congregations.

The Present Study

Over the last three decades, research has established a strong link between attachment and well-being (e.g., Armsden & Greenberg, 1987; Kenny & Perez, 1996; Love & Murdoch, 2004) as well as social support and well-being (see Feeney & Collins, 2015). Though wellbeing has been defined in a number of different ways, this research builds on that conducted by Freeze & DiTommaso (2015) thereby adopting a "tripartite" model to examine life satisfaction, positive affect, and negative affect (see Diener, 2000). Similar to Freeze & DiTommaso (2015), this study also examined daily spiritual experiences, including it as a measure of spiritual well-being.

The purpose of the present study was to examine the contribution of attachment to church congregation to well-being beyond that contributed by social support. Because spiritual experiences include an affective component potentially related to one's relationships with members of their church congregation (e.g., positive feelings during worship and feeling God's love through others), it was hypothesized that church-based religious social support and attachment to church congregation would predict spiritual experiences. Further, since perceived social support asks solely about the perception of support from family and friends and is secular-based, it was further hypothesized that perceived social support would not predict spiritual experiences. Finally, it was hypothesized that church-based social support and perceived social support would predict well-being and that attachment to church congregation would uniquely predict well-being above that predicted by the social support variables.

Method

Participants

Two hundred and one participants (140 women and 60 men) ranging in age from 18 to 78 (M= 35.92; SD = 17.37) participated in this study. The majority of the participants described themselves as Caucasian (n = 186). The remaining participants were Indigenous (n = 5), Asian (n = 2), African American [n = 3), and Latino (n = 1). Participants described their current relationship status as married (n = 87), single (n = 69), living in a domestic partnership (n = 10), divorced (n = 10), widowed (n = 4), or separated (n = 2). Ninety-two participants had a high school diploma, 97 had either a college diploma or bachelor's degree, and 10 had a graduate degree. The majority of participants described themselves as Baptist (n = 126). Other participants described themselves as non-denominational (n = 20) or Catholic (n = 15). The remaining participants either declined to answer or were split among other Protestant faiths. One hundred and fifty participants reported that they were both religious and spiritual, while 31 reported they were spiritual but not religious. Finally, 17 noted they were religious but not spiritual, and three reported that they were neither religious nor spiritual.

Measures

Religious Support (RS; Krause, 1999). The RS scale was developed by Krause (1999) and provided a measure of social support within the participant's congregation. More specifically, it captured the emotional support that a participant may offer members of their congregation as well as the emotional support they may have received or may expect to receive from their congregation (e.g., "How often do the people in your congregation make you feel loved and cared for?"). It included questions regarding negative experiences (e.g., "How often are the people in your congregation critical of you and the things that you do?"). The RS scale was available in either long or short-form versions consisting of either 12 or eight questions. The present study used the short-form version. Each of the eight items were measured on a 4-point scale ranging from very often (1) to never (4) and a great deal (1) to none (4). Items were reverse scored so that higher numbers represented higher levels of RS. The present study found good internal reliability for the short form of the RS ([alpha] = .81).

Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support (PSS; Zimet, Powell, Farley, Werkman, & Berkoff, 1990). Developed by Zimet et al. (1990), the PSS was a 12-item self-report measure of perceived adequacy of social support from family, friends, and significant others. The items on the questionnaire are evaluated using a 7-point Likert scale ranging from very strongly disagree (1) to very strongly agree (7). Sample questions include "My family really tries to help me" and "I can count on my friends when things go wrong." The Cronbach's alpha for the PSS was .92.

Social Group Attachment Scale (SGAS; Smith, Murphy, & Coats, 1999). The SGAS was a 25-item scale developed by Smith et al. (1999) that measured attachment to social groups through asking about experiences with social groups. Each of the 25 items was measured on a 7-point Likert scale ranging from strongly disagree (1) to strongly agree (7). Two factors were assessed using the SGAS: group attachment anxiety (SGX) and group attachment avoidance (SGV). "I often worry that my group does not really accept me" is an example of a question measuring the anxiety dimension, and "I find it difficult to allow myself to depend on my group" is an example of a question measuring the avoidance dimension. Smith et al. (1999) noted that the instructions and wording of SGAS could be modified to measure participant's attachment to specific social groups. The present study changed the wording to reflect an individual's attachment to their specific church congregation. Internal reliabilities for the SGX and SGV are .87 and .89, respectively.

Daily Spiritual Experiences Scale (DSE; Underwood, 2006). The DSE, developed by Underwood (2006), was a 16-item self-report measure intended to assess how often individuals have ordinary experiences of connection with God in everyday life (Underwood, 2011). The first 15 items were scored using a 6-point scale that ranged from many times a day to never or almost never, and the 16th item, which asked, "In general, how close do you feel to God?" has four response categories: not close at all, somewhat close, very close, and as close as possible (Underwood & Teresi, 2002). The Cronbach's alpha for the DSE in the present study was .93.

Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS; Diener, Emmons, Larson, & Griffen, 1985). The SWLS was a 5-item scale designed to determine a person's overall evaluation of their life, and subjective well-being (e.g., "In most ways my life is close to ideal"). Each item was rated on a 7-point Likert scale ranging from strongly disagree (1) to strongly agree (7). The Cronbach's coefficient for this scale was .88.

Positive Affect and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS; Watson, Clark, & Tellegen, 1988). This scale consisted of 10 affective descriptors that measured positive affect (e.g., enthusiastic) and 10 affective descriptors that measured negative affect (e.g., nervous). Participants were asked to indicate the extent to which they had these emotions in the past few weeks with reference to a 5-point scale ranging from very slightly or not at all (1) to very much (5). The coefficient alphas for the positive affect subscale and negative affect subscale were .88 and .86, respectively.

Procedure

This research study was approved by a university research ethics committee. A convenience sample was collected via a private Christian university introductory psychology class, a Baptist affiliated church, and social media (e.g., Facebook). Participants from the university class received one bonus point towards their final grade. Students who wanted a bonus point but did not want to participate in the study were given an alternate assignment of equal length. Neither the church sample nor the social media sample received a bonus for participation. All participants were given a link to an online survey on SurveyMonkey [R]. Upon accessing the link, participants were asked to read a consent form. The study was presented as an examination of religious community, religious practices, and well-being. Participants were assured of their anonymity and confidentiality. They were informed that they could choose not to answer any question that made them feel uncomfortable and that they could terminate the study at any time. Participants who agreed to participate by clicking "agree" were presented with demographic questions followed by the questionnaires. Questionnaires were presented in random order.

Results

Demographic Associations

A one-way ANOVA with post hoc analyses, t-tests and correlational analyses were conducted to determine if there were any differences in the test variables due to gender, age, or where the survey was accessed. For the ANOVA and t-tests, a Bonferroni adjustment was used to control for Type I errors and the resultant significance level was set at .006. Although no gender differences were found, the one-way ANOVA confirmed differences in three of the test variables according to participant sample (i.e., university, church, or social media).

A main effect was found for avoidant attachment to congregation F (2, 196) = 6.13, p = .003, religious social support F (2, 196) = 11.59, p <.001 and daily spiritual experiences F (2, 196) = 12.53, p < .001. First, the university students reported higher levels of avoidant attachment to congregation (M = 37.46, SD = 10.63) than either the church sample (M = 32.47, SD = 11.14) or the social media sample (M = 30.69, SD = 12.16). Second, the university students reported lower levels of religious social support (M = 21.37, SD = 4.93) than either the church sample (M = 24.57, SD = 4.32) or the social media sample (M = 25.05, SD = 4.32). Third, the university students reported lower levels of daily spiritual experiences (M = 59.05, SD = 17.84) than either the church sample (M = 69.49, SD = 10.57) or the social media sample (M = 70.47, SD = 14.44). Because of these differences, this demographic was dummy coded (university = 1, other = 0), labelled sample, and used as a control variable in the first step of the regression analyses.

Finally, age significantly correlated with religious social support, daily spiritual experiences, anxious attachment to congregation, and negative affect (see Table 1). More specifically, older participants reported higher levels of religious social support, higher levels of daily spiritual experiences, lower levels of anxious attachment to congregation, and lower levels of negative affect. Age was used as a control variable in the first step of the regression analyses along with sample.

Regression Analyses

Four hierarchical regression analyses were conducted (see Table 2). Three steps were used in each analysis. The control variables were entered first, followed by perceived social support and religious sup port. The final step tested the ability of attachment to church congregation (anxious, avoidant) to predict the dependent variables over and above that predicted by the social support variables. A Bonferroni adjustment was used to control for Type I errors, and the resultant significance level was set at .0125.

Daily spiritual experiences. Attachment to church congregation did not predict daily spiritual experiences beyond that predicted by the social support variables. However, the social support variables explained 14.2% of the variance in daily spiritual experiences, F (2,187) = 18.02,p < .001. Religious social support significantly predicted daily spiritual experiences ([beta]= 37,p < .001).

Satisfaction with life. Attachment to church congregation did not predict satisfaction with life beyond that predicted by the social support variables. The social support variables explained 28% of the variance in satisfaction with life, F (2,187) = 37.61, p < .001. Perceived social support significantly predicted satisfaction with life ([beta]= .52,p < .001).

Positive affect. Attachment to church congregation did not predict positive affect beyond that predicted by the social support variables. The social support variables explained 11% of the variance in positive affect, F (2,187) = 11.18, p < .001. Perceived social support significantly predicted satisfaction with life ([beta] = .29,p < .001).

Negative affect. In this case, the social support variables did not significantly predict the dependent variable. However, attachment to church congregation did predict negative affect. Attachment to church congregation explained 13.1% of the variance in negative affect, F (2,187) = 15.47, p < .001. Higher levels of anxious attachment to congregation predicted higher levels of negative affect ([beta] = 32,p < .001). Higher levels of avoidant attachment to congregation predicted higher levels of negative affect ([beta] = .22,p = .053).

Discussion

As predicted, attachment to church congregation contributed a unique portion of the variance of negative affect above and beyond that predicted by social support. However, attachment to church congregation did not uniquely predict daily spiritual experiences, satisfaction with life, or positive affect. Interestingly, only religious social support predicted daily spiritual experiences and only perceived social support predicted satisfaction with life and positive affect. Not only does attachment to church congregation uniquely predict one aspect of well-being beyond that predicted by social support, it would seem that different types of social support contribute to different types of wellbeing. Thus, attachment to church congregation predicted only one aspect of well-being above and beyond that predicted by social support.

Religious social support and avoidant attachment to church congregation had a high correlation (r = -.75). Examining the questions asked by each scale, it is clear that religious support and insecure attachment to church congregation would overlap. Religious support asks about the love, care, comfort, and help both provided by the church and offered to the church. Avoidant attachment to church congregation captures the degree to which one seeks independence and distance from one's fellow church congregants. An individual self-reporting high levels of avoidant attachment to church congregation would likely report low levels of religious support, simply because they would be less likely to offer it to other members of their church and, because of the distance they keep, may be less likely to have it offered to them.

It was interesting that, despite the high correlation, religious social support did not explain any of the variance in negative affect, but insecure attachment to church congregation uniquely explained 13.1%. This finding indicates that there is something about the relationship between attachment to church congregation and negative affect that is not being captured by religious social support. Religious social support measures the degree to which social support is being offered to and provided by church congregants. Attachment to church congregation, on the other hand, captures the emotions experienced when in relationship with fellow church members. In the case of higher levels of insecure attachment, those emotions have a tendency to be negative (e.g., worry about the relationship, lack of trust, fear of abandonment, discomfort with closeness). Therefore, the person may be more likely to report higher levels of negative emotions (e.g., distressed, nervous, afraid) in general. Further, the findings of Freeze and DiTommaso (2015) were supported by the present study. In their second study, Freeze and DiTommaso (2015) found that anxious attachment to church congregation uniquely predicted negative affect over and above that predicted by attachment to God, but it did not uniquely predict either satisfaction with life or positive affect. In both of these studies, the insecure dimensions of attachment to church congregation seemed to be effective in predicting the negative aspects of well-being, but not the positive. It is uncertain why this is the case, but perhaps it is associated with previous negative interactions with church members.

Krause (2014) defined negative interaction in the church as "... unpleasant social encounters with fellow congregants that are characterized by disagreements, criticism, rejection, and the invasion of privacy" (p. 971). Krause further noted that studies both inside and outside the church have found a link between negative interactions and depression. Further, negative interactions with others inside the church may result in the individual receiving and/or perceiving less religious social support from their church. In relation to attachment theory, two explanations are possible. First, it may be that a series of negative interactions, perhaps even a church split, led to higher levels of negative affect as well as the development of an insecure attachment to one's church congregation. Second, according to a prototype view of attachment that proposes that the intrapersonal factors underlying attachment promote continuity (Fraley, Vicary, Brumbaugh, & Roisman, 2011), someone with an insecure attachment, perhaps one that developed in childhood, may be more likely to perceive benign situations and interactions as negative. Additionally, those with higher levels of anxious attachment may, by expressing unreasonably high needs regarding closeness and reassurance, cause members of their church congregation to become distant, thereby confirming pre-existing internal working models of others as untrustworthy and abandoning. Those with higher levels of avoidant attachment may keep at a distance from other members of their church congregation, thereby creating a situation where they do not just perceive a lack of religious support, but receive less as well.

While attachment to church congregation did not uniquely predict daily spiritual experiences, satisfaction with life, or positive affect, it was interesting that religious social support only predicted daily spiritual experiences, while perceived social support only predicted satisfaction with life and positive affect. As noted by Hill and Pargament (2003), "relationships are conduits through which people express their spirituality and come to know the transcendent" (p. 69). Perhaps as a church-goer experiences the love of God through the care of their fellow congregants, a sense of awe, gratefulness and other spiritual experiences develop. The care of their family and friends, on the other hand, may be more associated with more general aspects of life (e.g., satisfaction with life and positive emotions).

In addition to these differences in the ability to predict well-being, there also seemed to be age-related differences as well as differences depending on participant location. Hence, these were used as control variables in the statistical analysis. First, the university participants were significantly different from both the social media and church participants in some of the variables. More specifically, the university participants reported lower levels of religious support, lower levels of spiritual experiences and higher levels of avoidant attachment to church congregation. There are two possible explanations for these findings. One possibility is that the study participants from the Christian university may not be local and are attending an unfamiliar church. Perhaps both the congregants and the students perceive the students' church attendance as temporary. The temporary nature of church attendance during university may make it difficult for university students to develop close relationships with the other congregants. Because of the lack of close relationships, the church members may not know that support is needed and students may not be comfortable enough to ask. Since higher levels of religious support also predicted higher levels of spiritual experiences, it makes sense that the students who reported lower levels of religious support also reported lower levels of spiritual experiences.

A second possibility is connected with the age differences that are often apparent in religious/spiritual variables. The university student participants were almost entirely emerging adults. Arnett (2000) char acterized emerging adulthood as one of increasing autonomy, where the emerging adult (between the age of 18 and 25) is exploring and experimenting in their world. King, Ramos, and Clardy (2013) note that this is often a time of "religious and spiritual renegotiation" (p. 522), meaning that the young adult is experiencing a time of questioning, not just about beliefs but also about practices. Individuals that question the importance of religious practices like attending church, may either attend sporadically or not at all and may maintain a distance while attending. This questioning of beliefs and practices may help explain why these participants reported higher levels of avoidant attachment to church congregation.

Limitations

Some limitations of the study warrant discussion. First, the data was collected via online, self-report surveys. Conducting survey studies online has been the subject of criticism. For example, there have been concerns about the possibility of distractions in the participant's environment while completing the online surveys (Ramsey, Thompson, McKenzie, & Rosenbaum, 2016). However, studies examining differences between internet-based research and traditional in-person pen and paper research show little, if any, difference between the two methods (see Ramsey et al., 2016). Social desirability bias is another limitation of self-report research (Batson, Schoenrade, & Vends, 1993). Some note that this is especially prevalent when the participants are religious (Gillings & Joseph, 1996). In these cases, though, religious participants are expected to unconsciously report higher levels of the positive aspects of their faith. Conversely, the present study noted higher levels of negative aspects of religious functioning (i.e., insecure attachment, negative affect). Further, although generalizability could be improved by including more males, non-white ethnicities, and different denominations, this study did not just include the typical university participants but also church-based participants and participants obtained through social media. This resulted in a sample consisting of individuals of varying ages and stages of life.

Clearly, more research needs to be done to better understand the relationship between social support, attachment to church congregation, and well-being. Future research should consider alternate methods to self-report and/or should include a social desirability scale to use as a statistical control. Future research may also examine ways to promote secure attachment to congregations. Using Feeney and Collins' (2015) model may be helpful in this regard. They theoretically examined thriving through relationships and suggested that functioning consistently as a safe haven and secure base (through responsive support) may help the receiver of the support not only experience less negative emotions but also thrive.

Conclusion

In conclusion, although researchers have examined attachment to church congregation (Freeze & DiTommaso, 2015) and church-based social support (Krause, 2006), they have not empirically examined the two constructs together. Moreover, researchers have not attempted to determine if attachment to church congregation provides a unique explanatory contribution, beyond that provided by social support, to other constructs like well-being. This study found that attachment to church congregation predicted one aspect of well-being above and beyond that predicted by social support. However, religious social support and perceived social support, as well as attachment to church congregation, each predicted different aspects of well-being. Expanding the research to include attachment to church congregation may provide important information to pastoral carers seeking to improve the well-being of their church members and the overall functioning of their congregations.

Tracy A. Freeze

Crandall University

Author Note: Tracy A. Freeze, Department of Psychology, Crandall University.

The author would like to thank Dr. Sam Reimer and the reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions on earlier drafts as well as Katherine Hamilton for her assistance with data collection.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Tracy Freeze, Crandall University, PO Box 6004, Moncton, NB, E1C 9L7 Email: tracy.freeze@crandallu.ca

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Author Information

FREEZE, TRACY A. Ph.D. Address: Crandall University, PO Box 6004, Moncton, NB, E1C 9L7 Email: tracy.freeze@crandallu.ca Title: Assistant Professor of Psychology. Degrees: BA, University of New Brunswick; MA, University of New Brunswick; PhD (Psychology), University of New Brunswick. Specializations: Attachment to God, Attachment to church congregation, Well-being.
TABLE 1
Descriptive Statistics, Reliabilities and
Correlations among Variables

Variable     M      (SD)        1         2         3

RS         23.16   (4.71)      .81
PSS        69.76   (11.99)   .24 **      .92
SGAV       3.75    (12.18)   -.75 **   -.34 **     .89
SGAX       30.89   (11.69)   -.50 **   -.27 **   .68 **
DSE        66.09   (14.51)   .47 **     .16 *    -.34 **
SWLS       24.88   (6.75)     .18 *    .51 **    -.21 **
PA         31.84   (7.78)     .14 *    .29 **    -.19 **
NA         20.51   (6.93)     -.13      -.07     .28 **
Age        35.92   (17.37)    .19 *     -.01      -.10

Variable      4        5        6         7        8

RS
PSS
SGAV
SGAX         .87
DSE        -.15 *     .93
SWLS       -.19 **   .28 **    .88
PA         -.23 **   .36 **   .30 **     .88
NA         .37 **    -.14 *   -.22 *   -.19 **    .86
Age        -.14 *    .20 *     -.09     -.00     -.22 *

Note. RS = Religious Support; PSS=Perceived Social Support;
SGAV=Social Group Attachment_Avoidance; SGAX= Social Group
AttachmentAnxiety; DSE = Daily Spiritual Experiences;
SWLS=Satisfaction with Life; PA= Positive Affect;
NA = Negative Affect Cronbach's Alpha is located
on the diagonal. (n=201); * p <.05; ** p <.001

TABLE 2
Summary of Hierarchical Regression Analyses for
Variables Predicting Spiritual Experiences and Well-Being

                               DSE

Variables               B      SEB    [beta]

Step 1
  Age                  .03     .07      .02
  Sample              -10.55   2.73   -.33 **
[R.sup.2]                      .12
Step 2
  RS                   1.26    .22    .40 **
  PSS                  -.02    .08     -.01
[R.sup.2] [DELTA]              .14
Step 3
  SGAV                 -.05    .15     -.04
  SGAX                 .22     .11      .17
[R.sup.2] [DELTA]              .02

                             SWLS

Variables              B     SEB    [beta]

Step 1
  Age                 -.03   .03     -.07
  Sample              .42    1.24    .03
[R.sup.2]                    .01
Step 2
  RS                  .07    .09     .05
  PSS                 .29    .04    .52 **
[R.sup.2] [DELTA]            .29
Step 3
  SGAV                .01    .06     .02
  SGAX                -.01   .05     -.01
[R.sup.2] [DELTA]            .00

                              PA

Variables              B     SEB    [beta]

Step 1
  Age                 .03    .04     .06
  Sample              1.56   1.50    .10
[R.sup.2]                    .01
Step 2
  RS                  .15    .12     .10
  PSS                 .19    .05    .29 **
[R.sup.2] [DELTA]            .11
Step 3
  SGAV                .01    .08     .02
  SGAX                -.11   .06     -.17
[R.sup.2] [DELTA]            .02

                               NA

Variables               B     SEB    [beta]

Step 1
  Age                 -.13    .04    -.34 **
  Sample              -2.96   1.29   -.20 *
[R.sup.2]                     .07
Step 2
  RS                  -.12    .11     -.08
  PSS                 -.05    .04     -.08
[R.sup.2] [DELTA]             .02
Step 3
  SGAV                 .14    .07     .22 *
  SGAX                 .19    .05    .32 **
[R.sup.2] [DELTA]             .13

Note. DSE = Daily Spiritual Experiences;
SWLS = Satisfaction with Life; PA = Positive
Affect; NA = Negative Affect; Sample = University (1),
other (0); RS = Religious Support; PSS = Perceived Social
Support; SGAV = Social Group Attachment_Avoidance;
SGAX = Social Group Attachment_Anxiety
(n=193); * p < .05; ** p < .001
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Publication:Journal of Psychology and Theology
Date:Dec 22, 2017
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